JHI Faculty Research Fellows for 2019-2020 (12-month)

Twelve Month Faculty Research Fellows in 2019-2020

Research Fellows hold an office on the 10th floor of the Jackman Humanities Building and are central members of a Circle of Fellows.  They are University of Toronto tenured faculty members by the time of their fellowship, chosen for their distinction in achievements relative to their career stage, the excellence of their proposed project, and its relation to the annual theme for 2019-2020, Strange Weather.

2019-2020: Strange Weather
How might the humanities contribute to the critical discourse on energy and climate? The energy crisis is no longer simply about limited supplies but now concerns the very nature and place of energy in human life and society. Strange weather as symptom of changing climate destabilizes our trust in and certainty of our home (i.e. our planet) and provokes fantasies of control and of chaos. How can we help frame questions of environmental degradation, scientific knowledge and its popularization, especially in their relation to social equity, and societal futures?

Alan Ackerman, English and Drama, Theatre & Performance Studies
Alan Ackerman (Ph.D. Harvard University 1997) is Professor of English. His primary areas of teaching are American Literature and Modern Drama. He is the author of Just Words: Lillian Hellman, Mary McCarthy, and the Failure of Public Conversation in America (Yale University Press, 2011), Seeing Things, from Shakespeare to Pixar (University of Toronto Press, 2011), and The Portable Theater: American Literature and the Nineteenth-Century Stage (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999).  He is also the editor of numerous books in the field of modern drama and theatre.  From 2005 to 2015, he served as Editor of the journal Modern Drama.  His current research is in the field of environmental humanities and focuses on literary and cultural aspects of the rise of fossil fuels as a major energy source in the nineteenth century.  Professor Ackerman holds a joint-appointment in the Centre for Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies.

Energy and Economy in Nineteenth-Century American Literature
My research focuses on the cultural significance of fossil fuels and the ecological unfeasibility of high-carbon life. I will examine how specific ways of using energy shape culture and vice versa, in three main directions: (1) the transition in 19th-century America from an economy fuelled by wood, water, whales, horses, and enslaved African Americans to one powered by fossil fuels with climatological impacts; (2) dialogue about the environment across the disciplines and beyond the university; and (3) bringing ecocriticism to students via experiential and embodied learning.

Ben Akrigg, Classics
Ben Akrigg (Ph.D. University of Cambridge, 2006) is Associate Professor of Classics. His research has focussed on the economic history and historical demography of the ancient Greek world. He has taught courses at undergraduate and graduate levels in Greek language and literature, and in ancient history and material culture. For the past two years he has also taught undergraduate courses on humanities approaches to energy and energy history within the School of the Environment. He is currently the editor of Phoenix, a journal of the Classical Association of Canada, and one of the oldest humanities journals in Canada.

Energy, Economy, and Environment in Ancient Athens
This project will investigate the history of energy in the ancient city-state of Athens in the first millennium BC. I aim to advance our understanding of Athens’ economic, social and environmental history, and to contribute to contemporary discussions about energy transitions and about the interactions between human beings and their environments. Ancient Athens remains an important focus of discussion on the interactions between economic development, political institutions, and cultural production. None of these can be understood separately from the prevailing energy technologies and their environmental impacts.

Mark Cheetham, Art
Mark A. Cheetham (Ph.D. University College London, 1982) is Professor of Art History and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He writes on art theory, art, and visual culture from c.1700 to the present and is active as an art curator. He is the author of eight books, co-editor of three volumes, and author of numerous articles on topics ranging from Ecological Art to Immanuel Kant and Art History to abstract art to Postmodernism. His most recent book is Landscape into Eco Art: Articulations of Nature Since the 60s (Penn State UP, 2018), and his most recent exhibitions are Ecologies of Landscape (B E Contemporary Projects, 10 November 2018—26 January 2019) and Struck by Likening: The Power and Discontents of Artworld Analogies (McMaster Museum of Art, 2017). He was Acting Director of the Jackman Humanities Institute from 1 January—30 June 2011.

Weather as Matter and Metaphor
Weather is both familiar and strange. In spite of our tendency to describe weather in human terms, atmospheric phenomena occur outside of our realms of affect and control. I will address the coeval familiarity and foreignness of the weather through two linked investigations in the visual arts: Weather Words, Weather Images will explore contemporary and historical visualizations of atmospheric phenomena. Arctic Anthropocene: Images about John Franklin will approach non-anthropocentric aspects of weather via a new reading of John Franklin’s ill-fated and enduringly controversial mid-19th century search for the Northwest Passage in what is now the Canadian Arctic.

Bhavani Raman, UTSC Historical & Cultural Studies
Bhavani Raman (Ph.D. University of Michigan, 2007) is Associate Professor of History. Her research pertains to bureaucracy, legal geography, and media ecology and archives of early colonial India and the wider Tamil world. She is the author of Document Raj: Scribes and Writing in Early Colonial South India (University of Chicago Press, 2012) and articles on the bureaucratic structures, extraordinary law and land management of early colonial Madras. Her interest in legal geography and land use has led to a new project on public lands in the coastal city of Chennai, India. She has also published on migration and the reinvigoration of the culture question around the Bay of Bengal after imperial withdrawal. Her essays have appeared in Comparative Studies in Society and History, Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient, and the Indian news portal, The Wire.
The Strange Nature of Urban Commons: Landscapes of an Indian Coastal City

My project will offer a historical account of the making and unmaking of urban infrastructural landscapes through the lens of the commons in the coastal city of Chennai, India’s fourth-largest metropolitan region. Drawing on archival documents and digital technology, the project will explore the making of lands called porambokePoramboke, ‘making outside’ or ‘outside’ in Tamil, refers to public (Government) land, the commons, and waste, as well as to the practices of usufruct that congealed around them. These contradictory meanings describe amphibious landscapes that straddle the city’s ecologically sensitive beaches, wetlands, swamps, engineered reservoirs, waterways, canals and their shores. By creating a digital overlay of topographical maps, city plans, aerial and thematic maps I will aim to understand how Chennai’s poramboke as government land, ruin and commons were historically made and unmade in the last 240 years at the intersection of law, ecology and property.